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John Cochrane GILMOUR


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
CQMSgt (Acting) 3010 39y 3 Oct 1916 30 Nov 1918 DW 3 & 7

Quartermaster Sergeant John Cochrane Gilmour  (1877-1918)

 Booklet  

Early Life

John Cochrane Gilmour (known as Jack) was born at Caxton Street in Petrie Terrace on 23 September 1877, the fourteenth and youngest child of Scottish parents, John Leslie and Margaret Gilmour née Cochrane. Some of his siblings had been born in Scotland before the family migrated to Australia in 1866; the others were born in Brisbane. At least four of them died in infancy.

Two weddings and a funeral took place in the Gilmour family at the beginning of the century. In July 1900 the youngest daughter married the Rev William Beck, Minister of Esk Presbyterian Church. The service was conducted in the Gilmour family home at Lynton in Jeays Street, Bowen Hills. One of the officiating ministers was the Rev W S Macqueen, Minister of Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church. A few months later, on 14 February 1901, Mr John Leslie Gilmour (Jack’s father) died at the age of 68 years and his funeral was held at his Bowen Hills residence, Lynton.

Married Life

On Wednesday 26 June 1901 Jack Gilmour married Mary Elizabeth Aitken Hardy, eldest daughter of George and Isabella Borthick Margaret Hardy (née Aitken) of Bowen Hills. Described as “a very pretty wedding”1, the service in the Valley Wesleyan Methodist Church was conducted by the Rev. R. Stewart and the church choir sang ‘The voice that breathed o’er Eden’. At the wedding breakfast at the Foresters Hall the Rev. Stewart proposed the toast to the bride and groom. Fellow-workers at Thomas Brown & Sons Limited gave Jack Gilmour a purse of sovereigns. The couple left by boat to holiday at Scarborough.

For the first few years of their married life, Jack Gilmour continued his employment as a clerk while he and Mary Gilmour lived at Jeays Street, Bowen Hills. Their only child, Ormond George Leslie Gilmour was born in 1903. While Mary Elizabeth Gilmour continued to live at the Jeays Street home, the whereabouts of her husband John Cochrane Gilmour from about 1905 till 1916 has not been traced.  At the age of 39 years, he enlisted at Forbes, New South Wales to serve in the Australian Infantry Force on 3 October 1916 and was based at Depot Battalion, Bathurst. A month later he left Sydney with Reinforcements for 57th Battalion on HMAT Afric. From Adelaide on 7 November, Jack Gilmour posted a surprising letter to his wife Mary who he called 'Cis':

My Dear Cis

When you receive this you will learn I have left for the war. I would have come and said good bye but I thought you might have stopped me. I am not allowed to write much as it is censored but I trust I will go through it all and return when we will meet once again. I trust you will ever be good and kind to dear Ormond and let him know his father is at the war. I will write you a long letter from France where we are bound for and let you know my movements and will ask you to forgive all the past and look for a happier meeting. I am doing this for the best and trust God will see his way to spare me but if not it is his wish. I can’t say anymore just now but you might see Duncan Munro. I saw him before I left and he knows all. Well Cis you are still my wife and I trust you will remember me and I always think of both you and dear Ormond. If I am killed you will get word and then of course you are again a single woman but my very best love and wishes from my heart go to you.

I will write you at once when I arrive at France and with fondest love to your dear self and regards to Mother and Father and family and kiss dear Ormond. I am hurried away just now. Good bye Old Cis       xxxxxxxxx

From ever true

Jack

Enlistment

Jack Gilmour’s letter to his wife did not reveal he had enlisted under a different name. On his attestation paper he stated untruthfully that his name was Robert John Wallace and that he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He stated he was a cook which might or might not have been true. He gave his mother’s name as next-of-kin – Mrs Margaret Gilmour, River Terrace, South Brisbane. These details were true but his wife should have been his next-of-kin. He correctly stated his age of 39 years and his religious denomination as Presbyterian. His letter mentions Duncan Munro who was his sister Jane’s husband.

In her efforts to convince army authorities she was the lawful wife of “Robert John Wallace”, Mrs Mary Gilmour corresponded over a lengthy period with the Officer-in-charge, AIF Base Records, Melbourne. In one of her letters, Mrs Gilmour respectfully requested the Officer-in-charge to contact Rev Dr Robert Stewart DD, Methodist Parsonage, Brookes Street, Bowen Hills, Brisbane for a reference. By 15 October 1917, a year after Jack Gilmour’s false enlistment, the Officer-in-charge, Base Records was advising Mrs Mary Gilmour that “this soldier has been interviewed and stated he did not wish to sign a Statutory Declaration” and that, with regard to Mrs Gilmour’s claim to be his legal next-of-kin, “the above soldier states that as he had had a legal separation from you, he does not wish you to be recorded as next-of-kin.”2

War Service

Meanwhile, Private R. J. Wallace had disembarked at Plymouth, not France, and was sick in hospitals at Hurdcott and Bulford in England over an extended period. By 8 August 1917, he was attached to 14th Training Battalion at Codford but with classification C1. was regarded as unfit for overseas duty. On 7 February 1918 Private Wallace rejoined 57th Battalion at Codford and on 14 October 1918, he was appointed Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant.

Death

Unfortunately he met with a serious accident at the Codford Depot and on 30 November 1918 died at Fovant Military Hospital as a result of internal injuries.

A driver stationed at Fovant made a statement at a subsequent coronary inquiry which said in part: 

“On the 28th November 1918 I was driving a mule attached to a cart which was loaded with bacon. I was going from Fovant to Hurdcott. About 300 yards before reaching No 5 Camp a man came out from the near side hedge and collided with the mule. It was then about 6.15 pm. The mule was frightened and went straight ahead. I could not pull up before the cart had gone over him. I got out. The deceased got up and walked. I went after him. He seemed practically unconscious and then fainted. I put him in the cart and took him to the receiving station at Hurdcott. The mule was being walked at the time of the accident but pulled forward as it was frightened as soon as it collided with the deceased. There was one lamp on the driving side. It is possible that the deceased would not have seen the lamp. There is only one lamp bracket on the driving side and no other lamp bracket on the other side or at the rear. Nothing I could have done would have prevented the accident…….”3

Quartermaster John Cochrane Gilmour (known as Robert John Wallace in the AIF) was buried with full military honours at Tidworth Military Cemetery in Hampshire.

Post war

Jack Gilmour’s wife, Mrs Mary Gilmour continued to press her claim for her late husband’s effects. She wrote from Edithville, her home in Jeays Street, Bowen Hills in 1921:

I am in receipt of your letter of the 18th inst with regard to the disposal of war medals etc. of the late (No 3010 CQM Sgt R J Wallace) for which I thank you.In reply I must say for my part as wife of the deceased soldier, I think I have every claim on, not only war medals won by him, but anything left of his – also I must state that my son who is his only child will prize and value the possessions of his father.

I therefore must request you to kindly forward them to me.

Thanking you in anticipation.

I am,

Yours sincerely,

M. E. A. Gilmour4

On 16 June 1921 the major in charge of base records agreed to release Jack Gilmour’s effects to his widow. Letters written by Jack Gilmour’s mother whom he had named as next-of-kin reveal her understanding in the circumstances, also her sadness. She died in 1925.

Eventually the Commonwealth War Graves Commission issued a document recording John Cochrane Gilmour’s name and place of burial.  His wife’s name is not mentioned in recognition of his decision not to alter his wish that his mother be next-of-kin.

Tragically Mrs Mary Elizabeth Aitken Gilmour was also killed in a vehicle accident.  As she crossed Ipswich Road to sing in the choir at Annerley Methodist Church on Sunday 30 July 1933 she was killed instantly.  The driver did not stop.  He was later charged and gaoled for his offences.

Jack and Mary Gilmour’s only son Ormond died in 1952.  His funeral service was held in the Valley Methodist Church where his parents were married in 1901. The younger of his two sons is Rev. Bryan Gilmour who was Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia Queensland Synod 1991-92.

In addition to the Commonwealth War Grave at Tidworth in England, Quartermaster-Sergeant John Cochrane Gilmour is remembered with honour at two Australian memorials. His name is inscribed in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

At Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church in Brisbane, his name is inscribed on the brass plaque 'In memory of the men of this congregation who gave their lives during the Great War’.

The tribute includes the assuring words of Psalm 118,

'The Lord is my strength and my song and is become my salvation'.


Footnotes
1. The Telegraph, 6 July 1901, page 8
2. Letter, Officer i/c Base Records to Mrs Mary E A Gilmour, dated 15 October 1917
3. Statement under oath by Kenneth Mudie Larnack, Driver 15th Company Australia A.S.C. in Copy of Information of witnesses taken on 4th December 1918 at Military Hospital, Fovant in the County of Wiltshire
4. Letter, Mrs Mary Gilmour to Officer-in-charge, Base Records, Melbourne, 26 May 1921 

References
• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1
• Australian War Memorial, Embarkation Rolls and unit histories
• Ancestry, on line
• Brisbane City Council, cemetery records
• Commonwealth War Graves Commission, cemetery memorial records
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903 – 1926; 1954 - 1980
• England Census, 1861
Brisbane Courier, 24 September 1877, page 2; 19 September 1899, page 6; 10 July 1900, page 4;  16 February 1901;  27 June 1901, page 6;  19 December 1918, page 7;  31 July 1933, page 11
The Telegraph, 6 July 1901, page 8; 8 August 1910, page 8; 20 October 1933, page 1
The Week, 12 July 1901, page 18
The Courier-Mail, 2 July 1952, page 12

Written by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane.  November 2016, revised March 2018.

 

 

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